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When trying to pick one defining influence in my life, I realized that, in my case, the defining influences unfolded for me like a flower that opens in the sunshine after a rain-soaked spring. Our lives are comprised of layers of influence and circumstance, and I discovered that the pursuit of a long-suppressed passion could become the catalyst for so much more.

Throughout my childhood, there was one thing that was there no matter what else was happening around me – my one true friend: Music. When I was immersed in it, the rest of the world ceased to exist.

I was not the most popular kid in school, but when I listened to a Broadway soundtrack, I could close my eyes and pretend.

In my dreams, I was on the stage and the music surrounded me, enveloped me and shielded me from the real world. I was (naturally) wildly beautiful and sought after.

Just when it seemed like I might disappear into my own netherworld, school chorus and musicals came to my rescue. My secondary education is etched in my memory as six years of musical events flowing one into the other – chorus, color guard, dance team, school musical. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Life became serious after high school. A career in music never seemed possible – looking back, who knows why? But so it was that college, a business career, marriage and parenthood crowded in and left little room for much else.

Eleven years passed, and then I was encouraged to audition for a community chorus. I decided it was worth a shot. I had nothing to lose, and more to gain than I could ever imagine. It was like rediscovering my soul. The exhilaration of a successful performance, the process (oh, the process!) – even the agonizing hours of gritty, measure-by-measure analysis – the dissection of each vocal part can leave me floating in frustrated elation.

Mere music does not tell the entire story, however. As with almost any worthwhile endeavor, it is the unique power of the shared human experience that is capable of lifting us to heights that we never dreamed possible.

This is what I had been craving after I left my childhood behind. This is what I found, embraced and relished as I entered the next phase of my adult life.

The tale doesn’t end here. Along the way, I had drifted apart from my high school and college girlfriends. Why? Sometimes there are no concrete reasons for why people part ways. But as the years passed, I missed them – sometimes desperately – and I agonized over their absence from my life.

Volumes have been written about the power of the bond of female friendship. As women, we intuitively sense this, but how true it is. This is impossible to comprehend until we find ourselves without it.

I was horribly jealous of women who were still close with their childhood friends. I had convinced myself that this kind of bond was not in the cards for me – that I had thrown it all away when I lost touch with those girls I had grown up with.

It was the community chorus – for which I auditioned on a whim 12 years ago – that brought those bonds of friendship back into my life. Without a doubt, the finest women I have ever met are those with whom I gather on Wednesday nights to make musical magic. And, yes, one of them in particular has become the friend in whom I have found myself.

We were not childhood friends, but I am convinced that no pigtailed companion could possibly know me better.

I have a wonderful marriage, a child I adore and a satisfying career. What more could there be in life? Maybe a little bit more.

Never settle for “almost perfect.” Find the thing that makes you come alive and do it with as much gusto as you can summon. Then, marvel in the other wonderful things that come your way.